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Huge songbird migration happening in Duluth and along North Shore

A yellow-rumped warbler sits in a tree at Lake Place Park in Duluth (News Tribune file, 2011)

Thousands of songbirds, pushed by two days of strong northwest winds, converged along the North Shore and in Duluth on Friday and Saturday, according to reports from counters at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth. Many motorists reported hitting songbirds along Minnesota Highway 61.

On Friday, counters at Hawk Ridge (who count non-raptors as well as raptors) counted nearly 18,000 non-raptors, including 13,000 robins. On Saturday counters tallied more than 37,000 songbirds in one of the largest non-raptor flights observed at Hawk Ridge since non-raptor counts began in 2007.

Saturday’s flight included more than 23,000 robins and more than 3,000 unidentified warblers, according to the Hawk Ridge report.

“Unfortunately, many yellow-rumps (yellow-rumped warblers) were killed along Highway 61,” the day’s count summary reported.

Counters were Karl Bardon and Steve Kolbe. Dave Carman also helped in the observations.

All of these songbirds are migrating south. Strong northwest winds push them toward Lake Superior. They don’t like to fly over the lake because the air over the cold water offers little lift. So they move along the North Shore until they can clear the tip of the lake at Duluth.

Weary from flying or grounded by rain, such as on Friday, the birds become vulnerable to fast-moving cars.

Read more outdoors reports from Sam Cook at areavoices.com.

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